It happens every year, but the fall color change still gets us. To see the autumn leaves in all their glory, we’re hitting the road to these five spots. They’re all under two hours from Chicago, but their dramatic displays will totally transport you.
CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN (30 MINUTES)
You might exhaust your iCloud storage snapping pics across CBG’s four natural areas and 27 gardens. Our favorite spot happens to be the Waterfall Gardens, but when every square inch of the 385 total acres is strewn with red, gold and yellow leaves, it’s all good.
1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe; 847-835-5440 or chicagobotanic.org
MORTON ARBORETUM (30 MINUTES)
It’s an arboretum: It’s its job to have amazing leaves. Morton Arboretum lives up to the task with 4,100 different species of trees, shrubs and other plants all gilded for the season. Strap on your hiking boots or grab a seat on the tram—either way, you’ll enjoy a feast for the eyes.
4100 IL-53, Lisle; 630-968-0074 or mortonarb.org
LAKE GENEVA (90 MINUTES)
Plan to get all your steps in at Lake Geneva. Tracing all 20-plus miles of the lake’s edge, the Shore Path offers scenic views of the azure water and golden leaves at every turn. Still not enough? Hit the rolling terrain of Grand Geneva’s Adventure Center.
STARVED ROCK STATE PARK (90 MINUTES)
There aren’t many places in Illinois where you can catch the fall colors...from a cliff. That’s one key reason to visit Starved Rock. A few others include massive waterfalls, miles of shady oak trees and regular bald eagle sightings. Yeah, Mother Nature is real majestic.
2668 E. 873 Rd., Oglesby; 815-667-4906 or starvedrockstatepark.org
CASTLE ROCK STATE PARK (TWO HOURS)
Quick, name a river in Illinois other than the Mississippi or Chicago. The Rock River is one worth knowing. It cuts along a sandstone bluff, feeds off ravines and drains the rolling hills of this state park. In short, visit here and you’ll get to see some leaves and a side of the state you’ve never seen before.
1365 W. Castle Rd., Oregon; 815-732-7329 or dnr.illinois.gov